• Identification of a Novel LysR-Type Transcriptional Regulator in Staphylococcus aureus That Is Crucial for Secondary Tissue Colonization during Metastatic Bloodstream Infection.

      Groma, Michaela; Horst, Sarah A; Das, Sudip; Huettel, Bruno; Klepsch, Maximilian; Rudel, Thomas; Medina, Eva; Fraunholz, Martin; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (ASM, 2020-08-25)
      Staphylococcus aureus is a common cause of bacteremia that can lead to severe complications once the bacteria exit the bloodstream and establish infection in secondary organs. Despite its clinical relevance, little is known about the bacterial factors facilitating the development of these metastatic infections. Here, we used an S. aureus transposon mutant library coupled to transposon insertion sequencing (Tn-Seq) to identify genes that are critical for efficient bacterial colonization of secondary organs in a murine model of metastatic bloodstream infection. Our transposon screen identified a LysR-type transcriptional regulator (LTTR), which was required for efficient colonization of secondary organs such as the kidneys in infected mice. The critical role of LTTR in secondary organ colonization was confirmed using an isogenic mutant deficient in the expression of LTTR. To identify the set of genes controlled by LTTR, we used an S. aureus strain carrying the LTTR gene in an inducible expression plasmid. Gene expression analysis upon induction of LTTR showed increased transcription of genes involved in branched-chain amino acid biosynthesis, a methionine sulfoxide reductase, and a copper transporter as well as decreased transcription of genes coding for urease and components of pyrimidine nucleotides. Furthermore, we show that transcription of LTTR is repressed by glucose, is induced under microaerobic conditions, and required trace amounts of copper ions. Our data thus pinpoints LTTR as an important element that enables a rapid adaptation of S. aureus to the changing host microenvironment.IMPORTANCEStaphylococcus aureus is an important pathogen that can disseminate via the bloodstream and establish metastatic infections in distant organs. To achieve a better understanding of the bacterial factors facilitating the development of these metastatic infections, we used in this study a Staphylococcus aureus transposon mutant library in a murine model of intravenous infection, where bacteria first colonize the liver as the primary infection site and subsequently progress to secondary sites such as the kidney and bones. We identified a novel LysR-type transcriptional regulator (LTTR), which was specifically required by S. aureus for efficient colonization of secondary organs. We also determined the transcriptional activation as well as the regulon of LTTR, which suggests that this regulator is involved in the metabolic adaptation of S. aureus to the host microenvironment found in secondary infection sites.
    • Impact of healthy aging on active bacterial assemblages throughout the gastrointestinal tract.

      Schütte, Kerstin; Schulz, Christian; Vilchez-Vargas, Ramiro; Vasapolli, Riccardo; Palm, Frederike; Simon, Bianca; Schomburg, Dirk; Lux, Anke; Geffers, Robert; Pieper, Dietmar H; et al. (Taylor & Francis, 2021-08-30)
      The adaption of gut microbiota (GM) throughout human life is a key factor in maintaining health. Interventions to restore a healthy GM composition may have the potential to improve health and disease outcomes in the elderly. We performed a comprehensive characterization of changes in the luminal and mucosa-associated microbiota composition in elderly compared with younger healthy individuals. Samples from saliva and feces, and biopsies from the upper and lower gastrointestinal tract (UGIT, LGIT), were collected from 59 asymptomatic individuals grouped by age: 40-55, 56-70, and 71-85 years). All underwent anthropometric, geriatric, and nutritional assessment. RNA was extracted and reverse-transcribed into complementary DNA; the V1-V2 regions of 16S ribosomal RNA genes were amplified and sequenced. Abundances of the taxa in all taxonomic ranks in each sample type were used to construct sample-similarity matrices by the Bray-Curtis algorithm. Significant differences between defined groups were assessed by analysis of similarity. The bacterial community showed strong interindividual variations and a clear distinction between samples from UGIT, LGIT, and feces. While in saliva some taxa were affected by aging, this number was considerably greater in UGIT and was subsequently higher in LGIT. Unexpectedly, aging scarcely influenced the bacterial community of feces over the age range of 40-85 years. The development of interventions to preserve and restore human health with increased age by establishing a healthy gut microbiome should not rely solely on data from fecal analysis, as the intestinal mucosa is affected by more significant changes, which differ from those observed in fecal analyses.
    • Improved bacterial RNA-seq by Cas9-based depletion of ribosomal RNA reads.

      Prezza, Gianluca; Heckel, Tobias; Dietrich, Sascha; Homberger, Christina; Westermann, Alexander J; Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 2020-04-28)
      A major challenge for RNA-seq analysis of gene expression is to achieve sufficient coverage of informative nonribosomal transcripts. In eukaryotic samples, this is typically achieved by selective oligo(dT)-priming of messenger RNAs to exclude ribosomal RNA (rRNA) during cDNA synthesis. However, this strategy is not compatible with prokaryotes in which functional transcripts are generally not polyadenylated. To overcome this, we adopted DASH (depletion of abundant sequences by hybridization), initially developed for eukaryotic cells, to improve both the sensitivity and depth of bacterial RNA-seq. DASH uses the Cas9 nuclease to remove unwanted cDNA sequences prior to library amplification. We report the design, evaluation, and optimization of DASH experiments for standard bacterial short-read sequencing approaches, including software for automated guide RNA (gRNA) design for Cas9-mediated cleavage in bacterial rDNA sequences. Using these gRNA pools, we effectively removed rRNA reads (56%-86%) in RNA-seq libraries from two different model bacteria, the Gram-negative pathogen Salmonella enterica and the anaerobic gut commensal Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron DASH works robustly, even with subnanogram amounts of input RNA. Its efficiency, high sensitivity, ease of implementation, and low cost (∼$5 per sample) render DASH an attractive alternative to rRNA removal protocols, in particular for material-constrained studies where conventional ribodepletion techniques fail.
    • In vivo targets of Salmonella FinO include a FinP-like small RNA controlling copy number of a cohabitating plasmid.

      El Mouali, Youssef; Gerovac, Milan; Mineikaitė, Raminta; Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Oxford Academic, 2021-05-03)
      FinO-domain proteins represent an emerging family of RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) with diverse roles in bacterial post-transcriptional control and physiology. They exhibit an intriguing targeting spectrum, ranging from an assumed single RNA pair (FinP/traJ) for the plasmid-encoded FinO protein, to transcriptome-wide activity as documented for chromosomally encoded ProQ proteins. Thus, the shared FinO domain might bear an unusual plasticity enabling it to act either selectively or promiscuously on the same cellular RNA pool. One caveat to this model is that the full suite of in vivo targets of the assumedly highly selective FinO protein is unknown. Here, we have extensively profiled cellular transcripts associated with the virulence plasmid-encoded FinO in Salmonella enterica. While our analysis confirms the FinP sRNA of plasmid pSLT as the primary FinO target, we identify a second major ligand: the RepX sRNA of the unrelated antibiotic resistance plasmid pRSF1010. FinP and RepX are strikingly similar in length and structure, but not in primary sequence, and so may provide clues to understanding the high selectivity of FinO-RNA interactions. Moreover, we observe that the FinO RBP encoded on the Salmonella virulence plasmid controls the replication of a cohabitating antibiotic resistance plasmid, suggesting cross-regulation of plasmids on the RNA level.
    • Increasing storage stability of freeze-dried plasma using trehalose.

      Brogna, Raffaele; Oldenhof, Harriëtte; Sieme, Harald; Figueiredo, Constança; Kerrinnes, Tobias; Wolkers, Willem F; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (PLOS, 2020-06-11)
      Preservation of blood plasma in the dried state would facilitate long-term storage and transport at ambient temperatures, without the need of to use liquid nitrogen tanks or freezers. The aim of this study was to investigate the feasibility of dry preservation of human plasma, using sugars as lyoprotectants, and evaluate macromolecular stability of plasma components during storage. Blood plasma from healthy donors was freeze dried using 0-10% glucose, sucrose, or trehalose, and stored at various temperatures. Differential scanning calorimetry was used to measure the glass transition temperatures of freeze-dried samples. Protein aggregation, the overall protein secondary structure, and oxidative damage were studied under different storage conditions. Differential scanning calorimetry measurements showed that plasma freeze-dried with glucose, sucrose and trehalose have glass transition temperatures of respectively 72±3.4°C, 46±11°C, 15±2.4°C. It was found that sugars diminish freeze-drying induced protein aggregation in a dose-dependent manner, and that a 10% (w/v) sugar concentration almost entirely prevents protein aggregation. Protein aggregation after rehydration coincided with relatively high contents of β-sheet structures in the dried state. Trehalose reduced the rate of protein aggregation during storage at elevated temperatures, and plasma that is freeze- dried plasma with trehalose showed a reduced accumulation of reactive oxygen species and protein oxidation products during storage. In conclusion, freeze-drying plasma with trehalose provides an attractive alternative to traditional cryogenic preservation
    • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell-Derived Brain Endothelial Cells as a Cellular Model to Study Infection.

      Martins Gomes, Sara F; Westermann, Alexander J; Sauerwein, Till; Hertlein, Tobias; Förstner, Konrad U; Ohlsen, Knut; Metzger, Marco; Shusta, Eric V; Kim, Brandon J; Appelt-Menzel, Antje; et al. (Frontiers, 2019-01-01)
      Meningococcal meningitis is a severe central nervous system infection that occurs when Neisseria meningitidis (Nm) penetrates brain endothelial cells (BECs) of the meningeal blood-cerebrospinal fluid barrier. As a human-specific pathogen, in vivo models are greatly limited and pose a significant challenge. In vitro cell models have been developed, however, most lack critical BEC phenotypes limiting their usefulness. Human BECs generated from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) retain BEC properties and offer the prospect of modeling the human-specific Nm interaction with BECs. Here, we exploit iPSC-BECs as a novel cellular model to study Nm host-pathogen interactions, and provide an overview of host responses to Nm infection. Using iPSC-BECs, we first confirmed that multiple Nm strains and mutants follow similar phenotypes to previously described models. The recruitment of the recently published pilus adhesin receptor CD147 underneath meningococcal microcolonies could be verified in iPSC-BECs. Nm was also observed to significantly increase the expression of pro-inflammatory and neutrophil-specific chemokines IL6, CXCL1, CXCL2, CXCL8, and CCL20, and the secretion of IFN-γ and RANTES. For the first time, we directly observe that Nm disrupts the three tight junction proteins ZO-1, Occludin, and Claudin-5, which become frayed and/or discontinuous in BECs upon Nm challenge. In accordance with tight junction loss, a sharp loss in trans-endothelial electrical resistance, and an increase in sodium fluorescein permeability and in bacterial transmigration, was observed. Finally, we established RNA-Seq of sorted, infected iPSC-BECs, providing expression data of Nm-responsive host genes. Altogether, this model provides novel insights into Nm pathogenesis, including an impact of Nm on barrier properties and tight junction complexes, and suggests that the paracellular route may contribute to Nm traversal of BECs.
    • Initial HCV infection of adult hepatocytes triggers a temporally structured transcriptional program containing diverse pro- and anti-viral elements.

      Tegtmeyer, Birthe; Vieyres, Gabrielle; Todt, Daniel; Lauber, Chris; Ginkel, Corinne; Engelmann, Michael; Herrmann, Maike; Pfaller, Christian K; Vondran, Florian W R; Broering, Ruth; et al. (ASM, 2021-03-03)
      Transcriptional profiling provides global snapshots of virus-mediated cellular reprogramming, which can simultaneously encompass pro- and antiviral components. To determine early transcriptional signatures associated with HCV infection of authentic target cells, we performed ex vivo infections of adult primary human hepatocytes (PHHs) from seven donors. Longitudinal sampling identified minimal gene dysregulation at six hours post infection (hpi). In contrast, at 72 hpi, massive increases in the breadth and magnitude of HCV-induced gene dysregulation were apparent, affecting gene classes associated with diverse biological processes. Comparison with HCV-induced transcriptional dysregulation in Huh-7.5 cells identified limited overlap between the two systems. Of note, in PHHs, HCV infection initiated broad upregulation of canonical interferon (IFN)-mediated defense programs, limiting viral RNA replication and abrogating virion release. We further find that constitutive expression of IRF1 in PHHs maintains a steady-state antiviral program in the absence of infection, which can additionally reduce HCV RNA translation and replication. We also detected infection-induced downregulation of ∼90 genes encoding components of the EIF2 translation initiation complex and ribosomal subunits in PHHs, consistent with a signature of translational shutoff. As HCV polyprotein translation occurs independently of the EIF2 complex, this process is likely pro-viral: only translation initiation of host transcripts is arrested. The combination of antiviral intrinsic and inducible immunity, balanced against pro-viral programs, including translational arrest, maintains HCV replication at a low-level in PHHs. This may ultimately keep HCV under the radar of extra-hepatocyte immune surveillance while initial infection is established, promoting tolerance, preventing clearance and facilitating progression to chronicity.IMPORTANCEAcute HCV infections are often asymptomatic and therefore frequently undiagnosed. We endeavored to recreate this understudied phase of HCV infection using explanted PHHs and monitored host responses to initial infection. We detected temporally distinct virus-induced perturbations in the transcriptional landscape, which were initially narrow but massively amplified in breadth and magnitude over time. At 72 hpi, we detected dysregulation of diverse gene programs, concurrently promoting both virus clearance and virus persistence. On the one hand, baseline expression of IRF1 combined with infection-induced upregulation of IFN-mediated effector genes suppresses virus propagation. On the other, we detect transcriptional signatures of host translational inhibition, which likely reduces processing of IFN-regulated gene transcripts and facilitates virus survival. Together, our data provide important insights into constitutive and virus-induced transcriptional programs in PHHs, and identifies simultaneous antagonistic dysregulation of pro-and anti-viral programs which may facilitate host tolerance and promote viral persistence.
    • Integrative functional genomics decodes herpes simplex virus 1.

      Whisnant, Adam W; Jürges, Christopher S; Hennig, Thomas; Wyler, Emanuel; Prusty, Bhupesh; Rutkowski, Andrzej J; L'hernault, Anne; Djakovic, Lara; Göbel, Margarete; Döring, Kristina; et al. (NPG, 2020-04-27)
      The predicted 80 open reading frames (ORFs) of herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) have been intensively studied for decades. Here, we unravel the complete viral transcriptome and translatome during lytic infection with base-pair resolution by computational integration of multi-omics data. We identify a total of 201 transcripts and 284 ORFs including all known and 46 novel large ORFs. This includes a so far unknown ORF in the locus deleted in the FDA-approved oncolytic virus Imlygic. Multiple transcript isoforms expressed from individual gene loci explain translation of the vast majority of ORFs as well as N-terminal extensions (NTEs) and truncations. We show that NTEs with non-canonical start codons govern the subcellular protein localization and packaging of key viral regulators and structural proteins. We extend the current nomenclature to include all viral gene products and provide a genome browser that visualizes all the obtained data from whole genome to single-nucleotide resolution.
    • Intracellular Staphylococcus aureus Perturbs the Host Cell Ca+ Homeostasis To Promote Cell Death.

      Stelzner, Kathrin; Winkler, Ann-Cathrin; Liang, Chunguang; Boyny, Aziza; Ade, Carsten P; Dandekar, Thomas; Fraunholz, Martin J; Rudel, Thomas; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (ASM, 2020-12-15)
      The opportunistic human pathogen Staphylococcus aureus causes serious infectious diseases that range from superficial skin and soft tissue infections to necrotizing pneumonia and sepsis. While classically regarded as an extracellular pathogen, S. aureus is able to invade and survive within human cells. Host cell exit is associated with cell death, tissue destruction, and the spread of infection. The exact molecular mechanism employed by S. aureus to escape the host cell is still unclear. In this study, we performed a genome-wide small hairpin RNA (shRNA) screen and identified the calcium signaling pathway as being involved in intracellular infection. S. aureus induced a massive cytosolic Ca2+ increase in epithelial host cells after invasion and intracellular replication of the pathogen. This was paralleled by a decrease in endoplasmic reticulum Ca2+ concentration. Additionally, calcium ions from the extracellular space contributed to the cytosolic Ca2+ increase. As a consequence, we observed that the cytoplasmic Ca2+ rise led to an increase in mitochondrial Ca2+ concentration, the activation of calpains and caspases, and eventually to cell lysis of S. aureus-infected cells. Our study therefore suggests that intracellular S. aureus disturbs the host cell Ca2+ homeostasis and induces cytoplasmic Ca2+ overload, which results in both apoptotic and necrotic cell death in parallel or succession.IMPORTANCE Despite being regarded as an extracellular bacterium, the pathogen Staphylococcus aureus can invade and survive within human cells. The intracellular niche is considered a hideout from the host immune system and antibiotic treatment and allows bacterial proliferation. Subsequently, the intracellular bacterium induces host cell death, which may facilitate the spread of infection and tissue destruction. So far, host cell factors exploited by intracellular S. aureus to promote cell death are only poorly characterized. We performed a genome-wide screen and found the calcium signaling pathway to play a role in S. aureus invasion and cytotoxicity. The intracellular bacterium induces a cytoplasmic and mitochondrial Ca2+ overload, which results in host cell death. Thus, this study first showed how an intracellular bacterium perturbs the host cell Ca2+ homeostasis.
    • Introducing differential RNA-seq mapping to track the early infection phase for phage ɸKZ.

      Wicke, Laura; Ponath, Falk; Coppens, Lucas; Gerovac, Milan; Lavigne, Rob; Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Taylor & Francis, 2020-10-25)
      As part of the ongoing renaissance of phage biology, more phage genomes are becoming available through DNA sequencing. However, our understanding of the transcriptome architecture that allows these genomes to be expressed during host infection is generally poor. Transcription start sites (TSSs) and operons have been mapped for very few phages, and an annotated global RNA map of a phage - alone or together with its infected host - is not available at all. Here, we applied differential RNA-seq (dRNA-seq) to study the early, host takeover phase of infection by assessing the transcriptome structure of Pseudomonas aeruginosa jumbo phage ɸKZ, a model phage for viral genetics and structural research. This map substantially expands the number of early expressed viral genes, defining TSSs that are active ten minutes after ɸKZ infection. Simultaneously, we record gene expression changes in the host transcriptome during this critical metabolism conversion. In addition to previously reported upregulation of genes associated with amino acid metabolism, we observe strong activation of genes with functions in biofilm formation (cdrAB) and iron storage (bfrB), as well as an activation of the antitoxin ParD. Conversely, ɸKZ infection rapidly down-regulates complexes IV and V of oxidative phosphorylation (atpCDGHF and cyoABCDE). Taken together, our data provide new insights into the transcriptional organization and infection process of the giant bacteriophage ɸKZ and adds a framework for the genome-wide transcriptomic analysis of phage-host interactions.
    • In Vivo Cleavage Map Illuminates the Central Role of RNase E in Coding and Non-coding RNA Pathways.

      Chao, Yanjie; Li, Lei; Girodat, Dylan; Förstner, Konrad U; Said, Nelly; Corcoran, Colin; Śmiga, Michał; Papenfort, Kai; Reinhardt, Richard; Wieden, Hans-Joachim; et al. (2017-01-05)
      Understanding RNA processing and turnover requires knowledge of cleavages by major endoribonucleases within a living cell. We have employed TIER-seq (transiently inactivating an endoribonuclease followed by RNA-seq) to profile cleavage products of the essential endoribonuclease RNase E in Salmonella enterica. A dominating cleavage signature is the location of a uridine two nucleotides downstream in a single-stranded segment, which we rationalize structurally as a key recognition determinant that may favor RNase E catalysis. Our results suggest a prominent biogenesis pathway for bacterial regulatory small RNAs whereby RNase E acts together with the RNA chaperone Hfq to liberate stable 3' fragments from various precursor RNAs. Recapitulating this process in vitro, Hfq guides RNase E cleavage of a representative small-RNA precursor for interaction with a mRNA target. In vivo, the processing is required for target regulation. Our findings reveal a general maturation mechanism for a major class of post-transcriptional regulators.
    • Letter by Cochain et al Regarding Article, "Transcriptome Analysis Reveals Nonfoamy Rather Than Foamy Plaque Macrophages Are Proinflammatory in Atherosclerotic Murine Models".

      Cochain, Clément; Saliba, Antoine-Emmanuel; Zernecke, Alma; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany.
    • Leveraging bile solubilization of poorly water-soluble drugs by rational polymer selection.

      Schlauersbach, Jonas; Hanio, Simon; Lenz, Bettina; Vemulapalli, Sahithya P B; Griesinger, Christian; Pöppler, Ann-Christin; Harlacher, Cornelius; Galli, Bruno; Meinel, Lorenz; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Elsevier, 2020-12-15)
      Poorly water-soluble drugs frequently solubilize into bile colloids and this natural mechanism is key for efficient bioavailability. We tested the impact of pharmaceutical polymers on this solubilization interplay using proton nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, dynamic light scattering, and by assessing the flux across model membranes. Eudragit E, Soluplus, and a therapeutically used model polymer, Colesevelam, impacted the bile-colloidal geometry and molecular interaction. These polymer-induced changes reduced the flux of poorly water-soluble and bile interacting drugs (Perphenazine, Imatinib) but did not impact the flux of bile non-interacting Metoprolol. Non-bile interacting polymers (Kollidon VA 64, HPMC-AS) neither impacted the flux of colloid-interacting nor colloid-non-interacting drugs. These insights into the drug substance/polymer/bile colloid interplay potentially point towards a practical optimization parameter steering formulations to efficient bile-solubilization by rational polymer selection.
    • Long Noncoding RNA SSR42 Controls Staphylococcus aureus Alpha-Toxin Transcription in Response to Environmental Stimuli.

      Horn, Jessica; Klepsch, Maximilian; Manger, Michelle; Wolz, Christiane; Rudel, Thomas; Fraunholz, Martin; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (2018-11-15)
      Staphylococcus aureus is a human pathogen causing a variety of diseases by versatile expression of a large set of virulence factors that most prominently features the cytotoxic and hemolytic pore-forming alpha-toxin. Expression of alpha-toxin is regulated by an intricate network of transcription factors. These include two-component systems sensing quorum and environmental signals as well as regulators reacting to the nutritional status of the pathogen. We previously identified the repressor of surface proteins (Rsp) as a virulence regulator. Acute cytotoxicity and hemolysis are strongly decreased in rsp mutants, which are characterized by decreased transcription of toxin genes as well as loss of transcription of a 1,232- nucleotide (nt)-long noncoding RNA (ncRNA), SSR42. Here, we show that SSR42 is the effector of Rsp in transcription regulation of the alpha-toxin gene, hla. SSR42 transcription is enhanced after exposure of S. aureus to subinhibitory concentrations of oxacillin which thus leads to an SSR42-dependent increase in hemolysis. Aside from Rsp, SSR42 transcription is under the control of additional global regulators, such as CodY, AgrA, CcpE, and B, but is positioned upstream of the two-component system SaeRS in the regulatory cascade leading to alpha-toxin production. Thus, alpha-toxin expression depends on two long ncRNAs, SSR42 and RNAIII, which control production of the cytolytic toxin on the transcriptional and translational levels, respectively, with SSR42 as an important regulator of SaeRS-dependent S. aureus toxin production in response to environmental and metabolic signals. IMPORTANCE Staphylococcus aureus is a major cause of life-threatening infections. The bacterium expresses alpha-toxin, a hemolysin and cytotoxin responsible for many of the pathologies of S. aureus. Alpha-toxin production is enhanced by subinhibitory concentrations of antibiotics. Here, we show that this process is dependent on the long noncoding RNA, SSR42. Further, SSR42 itself is regulated by several global regulators, thereby integrating environmental and nutritional signals that modulate hemolysis of the pathogen.
    • Longitudinal Multi-omics Analyses Identify Responses of Megakaryocytes, Erythroid Cells, and Plasmablasts as Hallmarks of Severe COVID-19.

      Bernardes, Joana P; Mishra, Neha; Tran, Florian; Bahmer, Thomas; Best, Lena; Blase, Johanna I; Bordoni, Dora; Franzenburg, Jeanette; Geisen, Ulf; Josephs-Spaulding, Jonathan; et al. (Elsevier (Cell Press), 2020-11-26)
      Temporal resolution of cellular features associated with a severe COVID-19 disease trajectory is needed for understanding skewed immune responses and defining predictors of outcome. Here, we performed a longitudinal multi-omics study using a two-center cohort of 14 patients. We analyzed the bulk transcriptome, bulk DNA methylome, and single-cell transcriptome (>358,000 cells, including BCR profiles) of peripheral blood samples harvested from up to 5 time points. Validation was performed in two independent cohorts of COVID-19 patients. Severe COVID-19 was characterized by an increase of proliferating, metabolically hyperactive plasmablasts. Coinciding with critical illness, we also identified an expansion of interferon-activated circulating megakaryocytes and increased erythropoiesis with features of hypoxic signaling. Megakaryocyte- and erythroid-cell-derived co-expression modules were predictive of fatal disease outcome. The study demonstrates broad cellular effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection beyond adaptive immune cells and provides an entry point toward developing biomarkers and targeted treatments of patients with COVID-19.
    • Machine learning identifies signatures of host adaptation in the bacterial pathogen Salmonella enterica.

      Wheeler, Nicole E; Gardner, Paul P; Barquist, Lars; HIRI, Helmoltz-Institut für RNA-basierteInfektionsforschung, Josef-Schneider-Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (2018-01-01)
      Emerging pathogens are a major threat to public health, however understanding how pathogens adapt to new niches remains a challenge. New methods are urgently required to provide functional insights into pathogens from the massive genomic data sets now being generated from routine pathogen surveillance for epidemiological purposes. Here, we measure the burden of atypical mutations in protein coding genes across independently evolved Salmonella enterica lineages, and use these as input to train a random forest classifier to identify strains associated with extraintestinal disease. Members of the species fall along a continuum, from pathovars which cause gastrointestinal infection and low mortality, associated with a broad host-range, to those that cause invasive infection and high mortality, associated with a narrowed host range. Our random forest classifier learned to perfectly discriminate long-established gastrointestinal and invasive serovars of Salmonella. Additionally, it was able to discriminate recently emerged Salmonella Enteritidis and Typhimurium lineages associated with invasive disease in immunocompromised populations in sub-Saharan Africa, and within-host adaptation to invasive infection. We dissect the architecture of the model to identify the genes that were most informative of phenotype, revealing a common theme of degradation of metabolic pathways in extraintestinal lineages. This approach accurately identifies patterns of gene degradation and diversifying selection specific to invasive serovars that have been captured by more labour-intensive investigations, but can be readily scaled to larger analyses.
    • The Major RNA-Binding Protein ProQ Impacts Virulence Gene Expression in Salmonella enterica Serovar Typhimurium.

      Westermann, Alexander J; Venturini, Elisa; Sellin, Mikael E; Förstner, Konrad U; Hardt, Wolf-Dietrich; Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Amercan Society of Microbiology, 2019-01-02)
      FinO domain proteins such as ProQ of the model pathogen
    • MAPS integrates regulation of actin-targeting effector SteC into the virulence control network of Salmonella small RNA PinT.

      Correia Santos, Sara; Bischler, Thorsten; Westermann, Alexander J; Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Elsevier (Cell Press), 2021-02-02)
      A full understanding of the contribution of small RNAs (sRNAs) to bacterial virulence demands knowledge of their target suites under infection-relevant conditions. Here, we take an integrative approach to capturing targets of the Hfq-associated sRNA PinT, a known post-transcriptional timer of the two major virulence programs of Salmonella enterica. Using MS2 affinity purification and RNA sequencing (MAPS), we identify PinT ligands in bacteria under in vitro conditions mimicking specific stages of the infection cycle and in bacteria growing inside macrophages. This reveals PinT-mediated translational inhibition of the secreted effector kinase SteC, which had gone unnoticed in previous target searches. Using genetic, biochemical, and microscopic assays, we provide evidence for PinT-mediated repression of steC mRNA, eventually delaying actin rearrangements in infected host cells. Our findings support the role of PinT as a central post-transcriptional regulator in Salmonella virulence and illustrate the need for complementary methods to reveal the full target suites of sRNAs.
    • Mechanism and consequences of herpes simplex virus 1-mediated regulation of host mRNA alternative polyadenylation.

      Wang, Xiuye; Liu, Liang; Whisnant, Adam W; Hennig, Thomas; Djakovic, Lara; Haque, Nabila; Bach, Cindy; Sandri-Goldin, Rozanne M; Erhard, Florian; Friedel, Caroline C; et al. (PLOS, 2021-03-08)
      Eukaryotic gene expression is extensively regulated by cellular stress and pathogen infections. We have previously shown that herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) and several cellular stresses cause widespread disruption of transcription termination (DoTT) of RNA polymerase II (RNAPII) in host genes and that the viral immediate early factor ICP27 plays an important role in HSV-1-induced DoTT. Here, we show that HSV-1 infection also leads to widespread changes in alternative polyadenylation (APA) of host mRNAs. In the majority of cases, polyadenylation shifts to upstream poly(A) sites (PAS), including many intronic PAS. Mechanistically, ICP27 contributes to HSV-1-mediated APA regulation. HSV-1- and ICP27-induced activation of intronic PAS is sequence-dependent and does not involve general inhibition of U1 snRNP. HSV1-induced intronic polyadenylation is accompanied by early termination of RNAPII. HSV-1-induced mRNAs polyadenylated at intronic PAS (IPA) are exported into the cytoplasm while APA isoforms with extended 3' UTRs are sequestered in the nuclei, both preventing the expression of the full-length gene products. Finally we provide evidence that HSV-induced IPA isoforms are translated. Together with other recent studies, our results suggest that viral infection and cellular stresses induce a multi-faceted host response that includes DoTT and changes in APA profiles.
    • MetaMap: An atlas of metatranscriptomic reads in human disease-related RNA-seq data

      Simon, L. M.; Karg, S.; Westermann, A. J.; Engel, M.; Elbehery, A. H.A.; Hense, B.; Heinig, M.; Deng, L.; Theis, F. J.; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Oxford University Press, 2018-06-01)
      Background: With the advent of the age of big data in bioinformatics, large volumes of data and high-performance computing power enable researchers to perform re-analyses of publicly available datasets at an unprecedented scale. Ever more studies imply the microbiome in both normal human physiology and a wide range of diseases. RNA sequencing technology (RNA-seq) is commonly used to infer global eukaryotic gene expression patterns under defined conditions, including human disease-related contexts; however, its generic nature also enables the detection of microbial and viral transcripts. Findings: We developed a bioinformatic pipeline to screen existing human RNA-seq datasets for the presence of microbial and viral reads by re-inspecting the non-human-mapping read fraction. We validated this approach by recapitulating outcomes from six independent, controlled infection experiments of cell line models and compared them with an alternative metatranscriptomic mapping strategy. We then applied the pipeline to close to 150 terabytes of publicly available raw RNA-seq data from  more than 17,000 samples from more than 400 studies relevant to human disease using state-of-the-art high-performance computing systems. The resulting data from this large-scale re-analysis are made available in the presented MetaMap resource. Conclusions: Our results demonstrate that common human RNA-seq data, including those archived in public repositories, might contain valuable information to correlate microbial and viral detection patterns with diverse diseases. The presented MetaMap database thus provides a rich resource for hypothesis generation toward the role of the microbiome in human disease. Additionally, codes to process new datasets and perform statistical analyses are made available.